Match report: Matlock Town 2-4 Trafford
Joint boss Dave Rushbury wanted everyone at the Autoworld Arena on Saturday to embrace the Christmas spirit, but the Gladiators took that a few steps too far on the field as they gifted relegation rivals Trafford all three points.
Poor defending, a lack of ideas in midfield where only Niall McManus looked like unlocking the Trafford door, plus a blunt attack all contributed to a nightmare pre-Christmas afternoon.
Visiting striker Shelton Payne was easily man-of-the-match, notching a hat-trick for a side which prior to kick off had taken just two points out of the last 33 on offer.
So questions must be asked as to whether Matlock have the hunger for the fight as on the evidence of Saturday, the answer has to be an emphatic no.
Central defender Adam Yates’ expected return failed to sdue to a bout of food poisoning but Matlock should not have made the glaring errors at the back that gave the visitors a comfortable and enjoyable afternoon.
The defensive madness began on six minutes when from a corner played at neck high level from the left, Steve Mason ghosted in to head home unchallenged.
With the wind in their favour, things would soon get worse for Matlock who were caught out by a quick Trafford break with Payne being brought down right on the edge of the penalty box. The defensive wall did its job first time around by blocking Payne’s shot but then inexplicably disintegrated when Payne smacked the loose ball goalwards and Jon Kennedy did not have a hope of stopping it.
All Matlock had mustered in the opening 25 minutes was a powerful James Ashmore strike which was straight at Tom Read and then a McManus shot which flew over the bar.
But by the 29th minute they were back on level terms.
Ellis Humble flicked a near post header from an Ashmore corner beyond Read to halve the deficit and then from the best move of the match, Matlock intricately played the ball intelligently around Trafford on the edge of the penalty box before the supporting Lawrence Gorman supplied the slide rule finish low into the opposite corner.
Matlock really needed another goal as Trafford were reeling but the visitors held out until half-time and then put the game to bed after the break.
The Gladiators were again lethargic at the start of the second-half and it seemed as if the rot had set in because they would not get any better.
They went behind once again on 64 minutes when Payne was played clear down the centre and nudged a calm finish past Kennedy.
Rushbury complained of schoolboy defending afterwards, this was the third case in point of the afternoon.
Another blow, this time of the knockout variety, arrived just four minutes later when from a free-kick 22 yards out, Payne comprehensively beat Kennedy to give Trafford a fine start to the Christmas fixtures.
Matlock never threatened a recovery and the alarm bells must now be sounding clearly for the Gladiators.
This was a fixture they would have been expected to win, but in the end they had only themselves to blame for losing it so horribly.
A big improvement will be needed in the Boxing Day derby at Buxton and at Ashton United on Sunday.
Saturday, December 20, 2014:
Matlock: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Ellis Humble (Martin Foster 62) 3 Phil Roe 4 Micky Harcourt 5 Lawrence Gorman 6 Oscar Radford 7 Joe Leesley 8 James Ashmore 9 Danny Holland (Charlie Dawes 76) 10 Corey Gregory 11 Niall McManus. Subs not used: Josh Meade, Andre Johnson
Trafford: 1 Tom Read 2 Cliff Moyo (Lewis Chambers 46) 3 Connor Roberts-Nurse 4 Steve Mason 5 Nia Bayunu 6 Rory Fallon 7 Chris Palmer 8 Will Ahern (Simon Hackney 42) 9 Shelton Payne 10 Luke Mack (Jordan Harper 87) 11 Andy Smart. Subs not used: Rees Welsh, Michael Oates
Att: 224 Ref: P Thompson (Chesterfield)
Best Gladiator: Niall McManus